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THE SAVVY TRAVELER

'Tis the Right Season to Go Shopping for Some of the Best Room Rates : Hotels: Many establishments offer great deals during the slow holiday period. Some include shopping bargains, free gift wrapping and children's programs.

December 02, 1990|PETER S. GREENBERG

Ever think of spending Christmas at a hotel? It may not sound particularly festive, nor does it conjure up warm and cozy thoughts, pleasant memories or romantic notions of the holiday spirit.

Thus, you may be surprised to learn that many Americans do indeed celebrate the Christmas holidays in hotel rooms.

Why? First, the price is right. With few exceptions, hotel occupancy between now and the middle of January is very low. This fact, coupled with a glut of hotel rooms in many cities from recent construction and a downturn in domestic travel, has created some great deals, many of which go beyond just a discounted room rate.

"Traditionally, it's a slow time for business travel," says W. Andrews Kirmse, vice president and general manager of the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco, "so we're trying to lure the leisure traveler and his or her family during December. It's a trend and a major emphasis for us."

In Dallas, the Loews Anatole Hotel has a special holiday rate of $78 per night, single or double occupancy, through Dec. 30. In San Francisco, room rates at the upscale Huntington Hotel have been dropped to $195 for a suite. And the Stouffer Stanford Court is offering a special holiday season package with a $149 room rate now through Dec. 30.

At the Checkers Hotel in Los Angeles, room rates start as low as $125 per night between Dec. 14 and 28.

Looking for a real bargain? Between now and Feb. 25, Omni hotels are offering special weekend discount deals--rooms from $59 to $99. And that's per room , not per person (the deal covers up to two adults and two children under 17). In addition, checkout can be extended to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Perhaps the best new hotel deal comes from Marriott, which just announced a $49 Holiday Room Rate available between Dec. 13 and Jan. 6. Only two restrictions: Reservations must be made two weeks in advance, and most Marriotts will not be offering the rate on New Year's Eve.

Many hotels offer special room rates that also include Christmas shopping deals, transportation to stores, even free gift wrapping.

The Stanford Court's $149 deal includes gift wrapping as well as transportation to downtown shopping in the hotel's Rolls-Royce limousine. Guests who stay two consecutive nights will receive a $25 gift certificate from Gump's.

Similar discounted room/shopping programs are offered in San Francisco by the Four Seasons Clift, the Mandarin Oriental and by Campton Place.

In New York City, the Parc 51 has discounted rooms to $195 per night on any weekend between now and Dec. 17 (and any night Dec. 17-30), and the hotel provides a free wrapping service between now and Christmas Eve.

The Westin Crown Center hotel in Kansas City has a great holiday package rate. From now until Dec. 30, guests can get a "Shopper's Holiday" room for $69 per night. Indeed, the hotel is surrounded by more than 60 shops and restaurants in the Crown Center.

At some luxury hotels, almost all of the rooms are full during Christmas. Normally, finding a significant discount is next to impossible at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. During this Christmas season, however, the hotel has dropped its regular $255-a-night rate to $215. Not a tremendous discount, yet the hotel is booked to near capacity this year.

"Staying at a hotel during Christmas is not exactly first on most people's lists," admits Beverly Wilshire spokesperson Georgiana Francisco. "But you'd be surprised how many locals elect to come here and stay for a few days during the holidays."

Family tradition is a large part of the holiday activities offered by The Drake hotel in Chicago. Yuletide festivities take on a Dickens theme at the 70-year-old hotel. Drake's holiday package is priced at $145 per night, double or single occupancy, and is available now until Jan. 31.

Guests will be treated to two weeks of Christmas entertainment in the hotel's Palm Court, including holiday choirs, madrigal singers, handbell choirs, carolers and a special puppet-show performance of the holiday classic "Hansel and Gretel."

In Tucson, the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort celebrates the holidays Southwestern-style with a posada on Dec. 16. The hotel has also initiated a comprehensive children's holiday program for kids between the ages of 5 and 10 that starts Dec. 26 and continues through Dec. 30.

At Lake George, N.Y., the Omni Sagamore Hotel also features a children's program, which includes arts and crafts, sleigh rides and a nature scavenger hunt. The program runs Dec. 15-28. Rates begin at $85 per person, double occupancy.

In Kansas City, for $20 more than its "Shopper's" package, the Westin also offers a special children's program, where parents can shop and the kids are supervised with an itinerary that includes a visit to the Hallmark card company, followed by Christmas cookie decorating, ornament-making and, of course, a visit to Santa.

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